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Rapidly spreading flesh eating ulcer has Australian health officials scrambling

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Rapidly spreading flesh eating ulcer has Australian health officials scrambling

An ulcer that eats away at human tissue is rapidly spreading in Australia. The country’s infectious diseases experts have requested emergency research into stopping this ulcer is spread and how it can be stopped.

Buruli ulcer, as it is medically known, has stunningly reached epidemic proportions in Victoria, Australia. Worse more, researchers who notably published an article in the Medical Journal of Australia regarding Buruli ulcer have no idea why Victoria, in particular, is the epicenter of the growing epidemic. In 2016 alone, there were 182 new instances of Buruli ulcer in Victoria. While that doesn’t sound like an incredible amount of cases, it is over 70% higher than any other reported cases in a single area prior.

Barwon Health’s Daniel O’Brien, one of the authors of the MJA paper, says the rising cases are “baffling.”

“Despite being recognised in Victoria since 1948, efforts to control the disease have been severely hampered because the environmental reservoir and mode of transmission to humans remain unknown,” O’Brien said. “It is difficult to prevent a disease when it is not known how infection is acquired.”

Most people who acquire Buruli ulcer believe it to be a mosquito bite, at least at first. This is because it appears at its inception as a bump on the skin. But the protruding bump is anything but innocuous. It slowly moves into an area of fat that’s wedged between the muscles and the skin. This is where things turn ugly. While embedded in this layer of fat, Buruli turns into a full-blown infection and begins to ravage the body by eating away tissue. It inevitably resurfaces back on the skin as a dangerous ulcer. Once the ulcer erupts, the person with the infection can expect a great deal of pain.

The ulcer tends to be treated rather well with a lengthy 8-week stint on antibiotics, although, in some cases, surgery has been required.

Learn the difference: epidemic vs. pandemic.


Why Victoria is suffering so badly from Buruli has led to a great deal of confusion among researchers. Buruli expert Professor Paul Johnson. He’s been trying to figure out why Buruli is rooting itself in Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas. Buruli is typical that of an infection found in swamp and tropical environments.

“It seems to occur in very specific areas of Victoria,” Johnson said, via The Guardian. “If you don’t enter an endemic area, you don’t get the disease. But what is it about the area that contains it, and what happens to you that means you pick the disease up from that area? Those are the big questions we’ve been asking.”

Johnson believes that the answer to the mystery lies in possums and mosquitos, both of which he believes are porting and spreading the infection throughout the region. His theory suggests that as possums defecate, the bacteria is spread throughout the area. Mosquitoes make their subsequent contribution by biting the possums and then, in turn, biting the people.

Whatever the case, Australian are now on high alert as researchers scramble to try and figure out what’s causing Buruli to spread in a more efficient manner than many traditional viruses.

Author: Jim Satney

PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.


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